ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --In one respect, the breakdown of Sunday's loss to Seattle was like that of any other game.
"Like all games, you have things you do well and things you don't do well," said Head Coach John Fox. "We call it the good, the bad and the ugly."
But for a defeat, there was much more positive than usual, and it began with how the Broncos were able to prevent the jet and fly sweeps without sacrificing much against running back Marshawn Lynch.
THE SHADOW KNOWS:
After playing on the outside in Weeks 1 and 2, Chris Harris Jr.'s role changed Sunday. He was back on the inside, working in the slot, and his primary task was to shut down Percy Harvin.
One key tenet of that was to follow Harvin when he motioned back toward quarterback Russell Wilson -- the precursor to the jet and fly sweeps that had become a staple of the Seahawks offense since Harvin returned from a hip injury for the playoffs last January. But he wasn't alone; on the second play from scrimmage, as Harvin comes back, Harris cedes responsibility to safety T.J. Ward once Harvin begins moving behind the offensive line.
With Harris and Ward together monitoring Harvin, the rest of the defense could focus on Lynch.
The same tactic is in play on Seattle's first snap of the second half, but in this case, Lynch bounces to the outside. Ward reads the play to perfection and is in position for the open-field stop.
Seattle had success when Wilson broke out of containment, and Lynch managed 88 yards, although he averaged a mere 3.38 yards per carry. But the ability to neutralize Harvin without sacrificing much in other areas helped the defense dominate the second half.
No sequence better illustrated the defense's improvement than the series that ended in the safety created by Derek Wolfe, Brandon Marshall and others. But it was the sack by DeMarcus Ware one play earlier that set up the opportunity for two points, and it was made possible by the Broncos' secondary coverage, which bought plenty of time for DeMarcus Ware to be pushed behind Wilson, then come back to engulf him for the sack.
Ware and Von Miller spoke in the offseason of wanting to finish with a sack total that exceeded the tally of an entire team. They have 4.5 sacks so far this year, more than 11 other clubs -- including the St. Louis Rams, whose vaunted pass rush, led by 2013 sack leader Robert Quinn, has just one sack in three games.
**THE PLAY THAT TIED THE GAME:
Two things make this completion possible. One is the athleticism of Demaryius Thomas, who has proven to be one of the league's best at tapping two feet down in-bounds near a sideline.
The other is the play design, in which Thomas, Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders were bunched to the right side against five defenders. The goal was simple: create a single one-on-one matchup and exploit it. That happened when Seahawks safety Earl Thomas followed Welker inside. Thomas moved as though he would run a flag route, then cut in for a post. He didn't have separation, but did have the one-on-one matchup.
The bunch alignment will continue to create difficult choices like this for opposing defenses -- even in short-field situations where the tight end and back stay in the backfield to block.